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Progress Association Grinds To A Halt

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Kumbia Progress Association president Stephanie Stevens ... the well-known group will be wound up later this year after almost two decades of service to the town

April 6, 2017

Kumbia resident Steph Stevens may be smiling in the photograph – taken in the main street of the town earlier this week – but she’s not smiling inside.

Steph is president of the Kumbia Progress Association (KPA) which has been a mainstay of the region since 1998, but will soon be no more.

In the March edition of Kumbia Party Line, the newsletter published by the KPA, Steph emphasised the association had suffered a steady decline in numbers in recent years, with some long-standing members moving away or “just fading away for various reasons”.

She urged members of the various other Kumbia associations to come along to an AGM as well as anyone who would like to help.

But sadly, in the April Party Line, Steph put pen to paper again:

Well folks, this editorial is by far the most difficult I have had to write, but here goes… The long standing Kumbia Progress Association will cease to be in operation by the middle of the year. Please note that this decision was made after considerable discussion and soul-searching and has not been made lightly.

Membership has dwindled to such an extent, and months of impassioned pleas throughout the community to get on board have fallen on deaf ears. Therefore, due to the lack of community input, we are no longer in a position to continue. This is indeed a tragedy.

Unfortunately, KPA is not alone – so many community groups are struggling to attract new members these days. This is happening across all small communities, and not just in Kumbia. 

Many younger people believe they don’t have enough time to get involved. The older generation has, however, always “made time”. Helping neighbours, friends, juggling families, work commitments, church, creativity, as well as devoting time to the wider community. They didn’t have automatic washing machines or creche facilities etc, yet still managed to fit everything in.

It is indeed sad to think that once these older people move on or pass on, what will happen to community spirit in general. 

Having said that, there certainly still are enthusiastic younger people and we hope they will continue to inspire others of their generation to look around and get more involved with the community.”

Steph told southburnett.com.au there were two projects the KPA wanted to finish before it wound up.

The group was responsible for the planting of the avenue of trees on the northern entrance to town. Some of these have since died, and the KPA wanted to replace them.

The second project was the erection of a new, large community noticeboard.

As for the newsletter, Steph said she hoped to keep the Kumbia Party Line running herself,  but as a not-for-profit exercise.

* * *

The Kumbia Progress Association has had two main periods of activity:

  • From about 1911 to 1914, when the KPA was agitating for the erection of Kumbia State School, alongside the Mannuem / Reedy Creek Progress Association.  They were successful with the school opening in 1914.
  • The second KPA, which began in 1998, after a public meeting in July that year attended by more than 60 people. Mel Symes was the first president, replaced later that year by Bernie Carroll who stayed in the role until 2012, when he stood down in favour of Mike Hauler. Steph later took on the role from Mike.

“A few people thought (in 1998) it was time to get the community back in action,” Steph said.

“Since then we have been the only independent fund-raising group in Kumbia.”

By independent, Steph means with a general “town” focus rather than a specific group or project.

She said there were “heaps” of small community organisations in town, but they were all focussed – understandably – on their own projects, such as the Hall Committee, the P&C, Kindy, church groups, race club, other sporting clubs etc.

But she emphasised that some of these groups were also struggling to find helpers.

“Some people think the same people are always there because they want to be important, but in fact they are the same people because no one else is willing to put their hand up,” she said.

Steph said there was little chance of a last-minute reprieve for the KPA.

“I would say no because we have been asking the community for such a long time to get involved,” she said.

“We have asked for representatives from other groups to come in as as a representative of their group.

“I have also spoken to a large part of the community on a one-on-one basis.

“If a whole pile of people decided to come on board now, why wouldn’t they have decided to come on board before?”

* * *

A Brief History of the KPA – by Steph Stevens

Kumbia Progress Association members in 1913 ... back row, from left, J Sullivan, M Tuite, W Parker, J Missingham, J Toomey, E Palethorpe, N Parker; front row, J Francis, W Missingham, G Woods, A Markwell, B Prothero, H Hayden, J Tuite and R Woods
(Photo: Kumbia And District Memorial School Of Arts 1922-1997)

The original Kumbia Progress Association (KPA) ran from approximately 1911 to 1914. In 1998, it was reformed and has continued until 2017.

KPA has been the only independent community group in Kumbia raising funds to improve facilities for residents and visitors and to promote the Kumbia district.

The Kumbia Party Line (KPL) monthly newsletter, for example, was started in 2002 and continues to promote Kumbia not only locally, but now around Australia through the wonders of the internet!

Regular items include Kumbia events and date claimers, editorial, Tony Turton’s wonderful cartoons, community notices, community groups’ meeting times, local business promotion, birthday lists, useful telephone numbers, Kumbia church service times, for sale advertisements, words of wisdom/points to ponder and when space permits, short stories, poems & puzzles such as soduku, kakuro, anagrams etc.

Over the years, money raised by KPA has benefitted many Kumbia groups, with dispersals to the Kumbia Kindy, Kumbia Memorial Hall, Kumbia Centenary Committee, Kumbia Christmas Carnival, Kumbia School Centenary to name but a few, as well as implementing and overseeing many projects and events around town.

Just some of the additions to our town that KPA has delivered and paid for include:

  • Welcome Signs at either end of town with community notice boards
  • A community notice board next to the Kumbia Butchery
  • Avenue of 100 trees planted on the northern approach to town
  • Playground equipment and wheelchair accessible picnic tables and mural in Apex Park
  • The Kumbia Centenary sign with the Pioneer Monument and mural next to the Hall
  • Historic building plaques with explanatory maps
  • Kumbia district map with points of interest
  • Kumbia Christmas Lights competition
  • The Kumbia Cemetery sign and plaques placed on all previously unmarked graves
  • Seating around the Columbarium at the cemetery
  • Asbestos removal at the Kumbia Tennis Courts along with the paint to enable the Tennis Club to repaint.

Between 1998 and 2012 alone, the KPA oversaw the expenditure of more than $40,000 for the benefit of local residents and visitors.

Many events over the years have been organised by KPA – a Folk Music Festival, a ‘Strauss Ball’, a Titanic-themed evening and ‘A Mediterranean Cruise’, all with musicians from the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.

There have been ‘Golden Oldies’ festivals showing classic films, numerous ‘Christmas in July’ dinner dances, the Kumbia Antiques Roadshow and Bush Poets’ Dinners, to name but a few.


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